In the cold blue winter light, I would nurse my son, his mouth small like a sparrow, his breath warm on my chest. We’d sit on the rocker from Toys “R” Us, listening to nothing and everything. The tumbling of clothes in the dryer, the icy wind rattling the windows.
That first January was chapped and rough, with wooly sweaters, sore breasts, and little sleep. Outside the streets fluttered with snow, busyness, and deep, bone-chilling air. But he and I were cocooned, spun in the soft hazy days of the newborn stage. As a mother, it was my job to protect, and protect I did. Fiercely and naturally, I kept him safe, swaddling him in soft cotton, and placing him on his back to sleep in a Peter Rabbit themed nursery.
Days stretched into months, and my son morphed from infant to toddler. It was a wonderful time of growing, playing, and discovering. Skinned knees and bumped heads were easily remedied, made better by a kiss and a cuddle. I continued to shield my boy from the slights of our world. As a mother, it was my job to protect, and protect I did.
As months became years, my rosy-cheeked child raced into boyhood. Elementary and middle school years passing more quickly than I had imagined. I always wished for a perfect world for him. And although it was not perfect, I somehow still had the power to make everything okay. When my son was younger, it felt easier to shield him from the harshness life often hands out. As a mother, it was my job to protect, and protect I did. How I miss those seasons of simplicity.
As a new season blooms into his young life, I must release him into a world that is not always kind. A world that is hurting. A world that can hurt. As a mother, this goes against every fiber of my being. Against my instincts. Selfish, isn’t it that I yearn to keep him close, both physically and emotionally? But I can almost feel the wind as months fly by, knowing my son will leave my cozy nest and enter the world without me holding his hand. Or him holding mine.
This is the part that breaks my heart a little. The un-needing. The once wafer-thin space that separated us sometimes feels like a canyon as my son flexes his independent muscles, pulls away from the role of child, and becomes what he is supposed to be—a man. Not only is it impossible to protect him from an often cruel world, but it is also hard to accept he doesn’t want my protection anymore.
This season is not for the faint of heart. It is a season that requires faith and courage. It is a season that leaves me nostalgic and mournful, but also excited and proud. It is a season that is necessary because a boy must become a man.